THE FARMERS Union of Wales, which is preparing to celebrate its Golden Jubilee, has warned members that 2005 will be a year of momentous change.

In his New Year message Gareth Vaughan, the union‘s president, said that it remained unclear what long-term effects CAP reform will have on Welsh farming.

Cattle and sheep numbers might reduce and a mass exodus of older farmers could lead to amalgamation of units, he said.

But Mr Vaughan acknowledged that the upheaval could provide land for young people to get a toehold on the farming ladder.

“But farmers have to contend with a host of other problems, not least of which is the ban on the on-farm burial of fallen livestock,” he said.

“Many farmers are concerned about the biosecurity aspects of the fallen stock collection scheme.

“After the foot-and-mouth epidemic, it is not surprising that farmers are very reluctant to see collection vehicles travelling from farm to farm.”

Mr Vaughan said the union was lobbying hard for common sense to prevail in Europe on the use of sealed pits and bio-digestors.

He added that the “disgraceful” way the government steamrollered through the hunting ban would deny farmers access to an important alternative disposal route.

The message also warned that unsustainably low milk prices and the spread of bovine TB threatened the viability of the dairy industry.

He added consumers must be made aware of the plight of dairy farmers and the compensation paid on TB reactors must continue to be decided by independent valuers.

Mr Vaughan finished by promising to continue to fight for the best possible deal for Welsh farmers.